Melbourne City insist an against-the-odds top-two finish remains their goal ahead of their final derby of the A-League season.
Fourth-placed City have only managed two wins in their past nine games, with Saturday night's clash with the Melbourne Victory shaping as a must-win if they are to close the gap on their crosstown rivals. History suggests teams can forget about being crowned A-League champions if they finish third or lower in the regular season, with the premiers or runners-up taking the silverware in all 11 seasons so far.
City trail second-placed Victory by six points and stand little chance of making up a 17-point deficit to ladder-leaders Sydney FC.
But midfielder Luke Brattan says a top-two finish is still within reach despite his side's indifferent form of late.
"Of course it is [possible] and that's what we're going for ... if we can't win it, we're going for second place," Brattan said on Tuesday.
"We haven't been at our best and we're not learning from our mistakes. We've been addressing that on the field at training and hopefully we can turn it around on Saturday."
City looked destined for great things after a strong start to the season which included a barnstorming 4-1 win over Victory in round two.
Things soon began to look shaky, with City's opponents increasingly adopting a defensive mindset to prevent them from playing in their favoured free-flowing style.
"Teams now, every week, are parking the bus so it's completely different now," Brattan said.
"We need a bit of flair in the final third. I think we've put a lot of crosses in and it's not working. We've been working on a few things so hopefully it will click."
Last time the Melbourne rivals did battle, Victory took the honours with a thrilling 2-1 win to reverse a three-game losing streak against City.
Brattan said he expected Victory's mindset to be far from defensive when the two sides do battle at Etihad Stadium.
"No disrespect to the other clubs about sitting back -- it's their tactics and it's been working -- but I think that Victory are too proud to do that against us," he said.
"It's two big clubs going at each other ... hopefully it'll be a fantastic game."
But the 26-year-old didn't hesitate to throw in a dig at Kevin Muscat's men.
"They had one win in the first three [derby] games and they were saying that they're back to being the biggest club in Melbourne, which is pretty funny," Brattan said.
"This game is a massive game and hopefully we can get bragging rights."